New research shows that workers who manufacture per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) had the highest levels of exposure over the chemicals’ seven decades of use.
However, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers found that PFAS also affected workers as end-users in various occupations.
Exposure to PFAS is associated with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases. These forever chemicals don’t break down easily and can persist in water and soil for years. They’re used in a variety of products from firefighting foam and medical devices to personal care products and stain-resistant clothing.
Obviously, the fluorochemical workers tasked with manufacturing PFAS had the highest exposures, but the study found that “in comparison to reference populations, one or more PFAS were elevated in most workers and in most workplaces that were assessed.”
PFAS exposures were found in many occupations, including office workers, fishermen, textile mill workers, barbers and metal plating workers.
Researchers searched 2,574 academic papers in 4 CDC databases
The study was conducted by searching four scientific databases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thacker Library for papers published from 1980 to 2021 on work-related PFAS exposures.
Out of 2,574 papers, 92 met the requirements of the study. To identify patterns of exposure, researchers compared and summarized the results of the papers by occupational setting, PFAS type, method of collecting samples, findings and several other factors.
Results intended to help establish guidelines for protection
These results demonstrate the importance of “measuring exposure to PFAS … among workers in manufacturing and other work settings.”
Identifying the patterns of work-related exposure is intended to aid in establishing guidelines to protect workers in the future.